RailCats manager Greg Tagert is exactly where he wants to be

2013-09-11T21:07:00Z 2013-09-12T04:45:04Z RailCats manager Greg Tagert is exactly where he wants to beHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com
September 11, 2013 9:07 pm  • 

GARY | After his championship seasons and at many points during his 17 seasons of success in independent baseball, RailCats manager Greg Tagert has been asked to join one affiliated team or another.

His answer is always the same.

"I've got many good friends in organizations and guys that I'm very close with, but nothing that would ever or that has ever enticed me," Tagert said.

Tagert has never finished below .500 in any of his seasons as a manager, the closest he came was 2012 when the RailCats went 50-50.

He was named Northern League Manager of the Year twice -- in 2007 and 2009 -- and the RailCats are playing in their sixth championship series in his nine-year tenure.

What attracted him the most to independent baseball in 1995, and then to the job with the RailCats before the 2005 season, was the overall supervision he'd have over the team.

Tagert prefers not to use the word "control," but it best encompasses the job. He picks his players, negotiates the contracts, selects his coaches and decides every rotation position and the batting order every day.

"The say in the franchise from the baseball side, that ultimate decision-maker, whether it's myself or Doug (Simunic) in Fargo or Rick (Forney) in Winnipeg ... there's probably a dozen or so jobs out there that have been fortunate to be in a place to have that autonomy," Tagert said. "There has been nothing like that that has been brought to my attention that equals the challenge of this job or the enjoyment and just the overall imprint you get a chance to make."

In minor league baseball, managers are at the whim of the major league club. The decisions of which players to use in affiliated baseball are typically based on contract size and which players the parent club are trying to promote.

"This job is so unique because I don't know how many other baseball jobs are out there where you have guys who played for you eight, 10 years ago that are following your club because of their enjoyment or their relationships," Tagert said.

A former college pitching coach, Tagert enjoys seeing players move on to affiliated baseball, as Clay Zavada did this season when his contract was purchased by the San Diego Padres.

Until Tagert can find a major league ballclub that would grant the same control to a manager that he has in independent baseball -- similar to that of a college coach -- he'll continue to turn down chances in affiliated baseball.

"When the White Sox had an opening, they didn't call me!" Tagert said. "Neither did the Cubs. Which is funny, because Dale Sveum, we played high school baseball against each other; he was obviously much better than I was. But the general manager in Major League Baseball has taken total control. Much like in the NFL, the coaches no longer have the say in player personnel.

"It's a big change in baseball where the manager has less and less say. I think if it was 10, 12 years ago when I was working for a team in the Frontier League going from city to city to city looking for the right city (to put the team in), believe me it crossed my mind working for the Milwaukee Brewers as a pitching coach might be a better idea. But it would not satisfy what I enjoy most about my job or my career."

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